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Kitcare part 5: Tents
Trek & Mountain Magazine

Kitcare part 5: Tents

Posted Thursday, May 21, 2015   |   1052 views   |   Leisure Interest   |   Comments (0) Ryan Waters continues his series with some sage advice on looking after tents

They are our home away from home in the mountains. They provide comfort, rest, shelter, even safety and are probably the most important piece of kit we own. We are talking about our tents of course.

Thanks to advances in lightweight ripstop nylon and aluminium pole construction, mountaineering tents have evolved into relatively lightweight and strong shelters. They are durable but they take a beating and must endure everything from ultraviolet sun exposure and rough, rocky surfaces to general neglect or outright abuse from the dirtbags that inhabit them (that’s us!). It is easy to think that shelling out loads for an expensive top-of-the-line mountain tent means you are literally covered, but years of experience in the harshest environments on earth have taught us that tents need as much care – if not more – than the rest of our kit.
Mountaineering tents come in two main types, single-wall and double-wall. No matter which you use, the forces of nature and humans for that matter, are the same. The sun is your tent’s enemy and its ultraviolet rays are always at work breaking down the material. The constant warming and cooling of the fabric also wreaks havoc on sewn pull tabs as the tent fly stretches tight in the sun and slack in the cold night. A really pro tip is to loosen your fly sheet in the day as the sun cooks it into a super-tight position. This gives it some slack and avoids wear and tear; tighten the straps back before night when he fabric will loosen and rattle.

Pay close attention to where you pitch your tent. If applicable, use a footprint which will save the floor fabric on rough or rocky surfaces and always shake or sweep out debris and dirt from the inside before packing away. Keep a very close eye on the seams of your main tent body and flysheet. Most tents come from the factory pre-sealed and taped at the seams. These need to be re-sealed from time to time to repel water from critical connections of fabric. Use a product such as Seam Seal and closely follow their directions for application.

This will greatly increase the lifespan of your tent and remove the grime and dirt from the fabric as well as make it more pleasant inside. Hand-wash your tent in a mild soap or use a product like Grangers Tent Cleaner. Make sure to rinse thoroughly and hang it to dry in a shady spot. Always carry ripstop tape and a pole sleeve in your repair kit. If you get a hole or a tear in the ripstop nylon of your tent or fly you can cut a circle-shaped patch from your tape and stop the hole from getting worse.

Poles have come a long way over the last several decades. They are incredibly light for how strong they can be, but you must avoid a hasty job of connecting the poles and avoid slamming them into place. This will wear out the ends of the poles and stretch out the bungee cord that connects the individual pole sections. You never know when you will have a broken or cracked pole so the pole sleeve in your repair kit is there in an emergency and can substitute as a temporary taped-on system to make your pole last through the trip.
These are the waiting timebomb on a heavily used tent. Wear and tear on zippers causes the slider – the piece that you actually zip up and down to close the fabric teeth – to start to wear down due to dirt and grit. This makes the zipper teeth fail to engage and open up behind the slider. Keeping your tent clean, especially the zippers, will reduce the time it takes for them to fail, but eventually it will happen and you may need to replace the slider or entire zipper strip. A quick fix is to pinch the slider from front to back with pliers, which will often cinch down the inner workings enough to engage the zipper teeth for the short term.

A dry tent is a tent that is ready to be either packed or stored. It is crucial to dry out all the fabric before packing it away. If not, the moisture will create mildew causing unsightly staining and funky odour inside your tent. So hang your tent in a shady breezy spot if you have it, before you pack it away for long-term storage.

To role, or not to role, has been debated for years; what about stuffing? The common wisdom dictates that it does not matter wether you roll your tent, fold it, or stuff it into the supplied stuff sack for storage, but that you alternate the methods from time to time. This will keep any creases from forming in your tent. It is also recommended to store your tent long term in a simple box or cotton stuffsack so it is loose and can breath. Just make sure it is in a dry place out of direct sunlight to avoid mildew.

Like our waterproof shell layers, our tents are often coated or impregnated with a Durable Waterproof Repellent (DWR). Like our shells they need to be retreated from time to time. Again, pay close attention to the signs that say you probably should re-treat (typically after a couple of seasons of normal use, say); water no longer beading and running off the surface of the rainfly; more condensation forming on the inside of your tent during the night; precipitation no longer beads up but appears patchy wet on the material.

After you wash your tent and let it dry, find a nice spot to set up the tent, ideally a covered area so you have time to apply the re-proofer and let the tent stand for drying. Choose a product like Grangers Tent Care which is a durable silicone based waterproofer specifically designed to jump start your DWR finish back to life.

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Trek & Mountain is aimed at trekkers and mountaineers of all levels, and features the world’s most spectacular mountain regions in every issue. Our experts give you vital information on which routes to choose, what equipment to buy and what techniques and knowledge you need to safely achieve your objectives. Whatever you dream, our aim is to help you ‘reach your peak’.

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